Work on RNA-based drugs and vaccines had been progressing quietly for some two decades. Then, when COVID-19 struck, it became an overnight sensation, attracting the
interest of public and private entities eager to fight the pandemic. RNA-based drugs and vaccines now represent an opportunity to generate revenues in the multiple billions of dollars.

Much of this opportunity is being seized by two companies, Moderna and BioNTech, which went public in 2018 and 2019, respectively. They rose to prominence quickly, and they now outshine other public companies in their space.

The opportunities for RNA-based biopharma companies aren’t limited to COVID-19-fighting products. RNA-based pipelines are expanding to address other maladies. For example, Moderna has developed a cytomegalovirus vaccine that is now entering a Phase III trial.

Also standing to make billions are companies that have launched RNA-
related collaborations. Just six days into the new year, Genentech agreed to
apply Ribometrix’s discovery platform to develop small-molecule drug candidates against RNA targets. Ribometrix could earn more than $1 billion from the collaboration.

In May, Eli Lilly and Company committed up to $1.25 billion to partner with MiNA Therapeutics in developing small activating RNA drugs for up to five targets across Lilly’s key therapeutic areas of cancer, diabetes, immunology, neurodegenerative diseases, and pain. Four months later, Lilly launched an up-to-$1.3 billion partnership with ProQR that will also pursue up to five targets by developing editing oligonucleotides.

This article updates our list of top RNA-based biopharma companies. It encompasses not only developers of RNA-based drugs and vaccines, but also developers of RNA-based platform technologies.

Public companies are ranked by their combined revenues for 2020 and 2021 (mostly the first through third quarters) as disclosed in regulatory filings. Private companies are ranked by the total capital they have raised, as disclosed by the companies themselves, either in press statements or in responses to our queries. Companies that did not respond to our queries are listed with the highest figure published by an outside source. Also included in this list are several “up and comers” that have either raised significant capital in recent months, shown positive data for their technologies, and/or launched significant new collaborations with partners.

Source: Alex Philippidis/GEN

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